Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- It's becoming an annual tradition.

When Oct. 25 rolls around, Kyle Van Noy takes to Twitter for a little reflection. He celebrated last year with a tweet. He did the same on Thursday.

"Happy anniversary," he wrote, "to me and my trade day! What a day that turned out to be."

That trade, the one that sent a sixth-round pick to Detroit in exchange for Van Noy and a seventh, ended up being one of the most important days of his career.

"Saved it, probably," Van Noy said. "Honestly. It's been a blessing. Kind of changed my whole life type of deal. Huge blessing."

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Van Noy was a starter for the Lions at the time of the deal so it's not as though he was scrapping for playing time. But he was part of a defense that needed a makeover, and he was playing a role that wasn't necessarily best suited for him. 

Two years later, he's still a starter (he played 84 percent of the snaps in 2017 and he's on the same pace in 2018). He's also a Super Bowl champion. He's earned a contract extension. 

In his tweet Thursday, he thanked Lions general manager Bob Quinn ("#thanksbob") and Bill Belichick ("#thanksbilltrill") for executing the deal. It's under Belichick that Van Noy has been able to reinvent himself as a multi-faceted linebacker. 

 

"Definitely gotta thank him," Van Noy said. "He's a big part of why I'm here. If not the reason."

Van Noy has found himself in more pass-rush situations in 2018 -- 37.3 percent of his snaps have come in pursuit of passers, per Pro Football Focus, versus 25.4 percent last year -- but he remains a player the Patriots rely on in all situations. 

He's adapted to life in New England to the point that Belichick referenced Van Noy as a team leader this summer.

"He’s a player that didn’t start his career here but has come in and really has understood the way that we have tried to do things," Belichick said. "He’s embraced it. He’s become very much of a leader in, A) doing his job and doing it the right way, but also helping other guys, particularly guys that transition onto the team as he did. He has a good perspective for that. 

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"He’s been very durable, dependable, he’s a smart football player, he’s versatile. He can do a lot of different things defensively, in the running game, in the passing game and in the kicking game. So, he’s got a good skill set and is a smart player with experience and can fill a lot of different roles for us. It’s hard to find players like that. He’s been a valuable guy for us."

As the Patriots may have saved Van Noy's career, he's helped them adjust to a situation where their depth at the second level could have been thin enough that it derailed their title hopes in 2016. Jamie Collins was traded just days after Van Noy's acquisition. Had Van Noy's transition not gone as it did, the Patriots might've found themselves in a irreparable scenario defensively. 

Instead, Van Noy ended up being a key component of the defense, playing over half of the snaps in the postseason that year, and notched a sack in Super Bowl LI. 

Last season, Van Noy filled in for Dont'a Hightower when Hightower hit injured reserve with a torn pec. He played nearly every snap when healthy, and if not for an injury of his own late in the season, he would've rarely come off the field.

That's the role he's earned in New England and continues to hold two full years after the day that changed his life. 

"Two year anniversary today getting traded here . . . Big-time," he said. "Happy to be a part of this."

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